The UK Covid Alert Level has been increased from Level 3 to 4 after a rapid increase in Omicron cases. 

Level 4 means the epidemic is “in general circulation, transmission is high and direct Covid-19 pressure on healthcare services is widespread and substantial or rising”, according to Government guidance.

The four UK chief medical officers announced the news on Sunday, December 12 after the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said 1,239 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant have been recorded in the UK.

It brings the total number of UK cases of Omicron to 3,137, a 65 percent increase from Saturday’s total of 1,898 UK cases.

Experts from the UKHSA said that the Omicron wave is "inevitable" and most restrictions may be needed. 

In a statement, the four UK chief medical officers and the NHS England national medical director said the emergence of Omicron “adds additional and rapidly increasing risk to the public and healthcare services”.

The statement said: “Early evidence shows that Omicron is spreading much faster than Delta and that vaccine protection against symptomatic disease from Omicron is reduced.

“Data on severity will become clearer over the coming weeks but hospitalisations from Omicron are already occurring and these are likely to increase rapidly.”

They added: “The NHS is currently under pressure mainly driven by non-Covid pressures. With a variant spreading with increased transmissibility and reduced vaccine effectiveness, we are likely to see this pressure rise soon. It is extremely important that if you are eligible, you get your Covid vaccination now – whether this be your first, second or booster dose.

“People should continue take sensible precautions including ventilating rooms, using face coverings, testing regularly and isolating when symptomatic.”